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The Artist Within

Creativity and being true to one’s self is, to me, absolutely necessary for a happy, healthy, and whole life. Whether it be the splendor of a sunset, amazing portrait photography, a painting I can’t help but admire, or a pair of shoes crafted in the most careful and lovely way—it’s all inspiration to me. The creativity of others in the world makes my spirit soar, inspires me, makes me smile, and encourages me to create my own pieces of artwork—an act that restores me and allows me to be my own happy, whimsical self. I believe all women should have such an outlet.

My latest obsession is with my dear friend, a local (to me) handbag designer named Stella Page.

This woman, born and raised in Santa Cruz, California, is a magnificent example of how a vision, hard work, and a belief in one’s self can turn a dream into reality. She is also an example of how obstacles can be overcome, art can become your life, and living your passion is a possibility for us all.

As a young girl Stella could not stop doing pen and ink drawings of haute couture clothing. Her parents, an architect father and a high fashion boutique mother, were amazed by her elaborate illustrations and argued about whose artistic genes Stella had inherited. Tiny seed pearls sewn into the linings of evening gowns, fur trimmed velvet high heels—everything was about luxury and beauty and self-expression—to a mere girl of seven!

As a young adult, Stella pursued her love of fashion by studying couture at FIDM, and was a natural at fashion illustration, couture, and draping. Unfortunately, as it seems to happen with many of us dreamers, Stella’s passion was put on hold as she matured. Life came knocking on her door and demanded she do what most of us have to do: be realistic, make money, get the bills paid, and put what we are naturally intended to do on hold. Stella became a waitress and spent her days serving others while continuing her secret passion of drawing and creating fashion in the wee hours. Times were hard, money was tight, and creativity was forced to take back burner to the responsibilities and woes of real life.

It is so easy to give up on dreams, to let life divert us from who we are meant to be. It is so easy to forget who we really are. Usually it takes a crisis to shake us from the doldrums of our day to day and reunite with our real selves. This is how it was with Stella. At the young age of forty-four, Stella was diagnosed with leukemia, the disease that took the life of her beautiful, vibrant mother. Stella, shaken to the bone, was forced to take a long look at her life and what she really wanted to do with it. Would she continue to be a closet artist and conceal her creative vision from the world? No. She physically could not and would not any longer.

Unable to continue to work as a waitress because of her illness, Stella decided to use her passion to meet life’s demands. She was determined that now was the time to face her challenges with gusto, and to put her all into making her dreams of being a designer a reality. With a newfound lust for life, Stella traveled the world looking for inspiration, and found it both in the beauty of other cultures and within herself.

She brought her vision back home to the United States and decided it was time to step up to the plate. So, with $300 borrowed from a friend, she made her first handbag and kept going. She worked tirelessly, drawing at night and designing by day. All she had was a pinch of money, a natural talent, her passion and appreciation for the arts, and her dream.

This story has a happy ending. I believe all stories do when people live with vigor and pursue their passion. Stella put together a first collection and took it to market. Her first show at the California Mart in Los Angeles was an instant and uproarious success; and just twelve months later, Stella was flown to New York to be part of the California Designer Showcase at the prestigious Henri Bendel store on Fifth Avenue.

Today, nearly twelve years later, Stella lives in beautiful central California, overlooking the deep blue waters of the Monterey Bay. She is sole proprietor and designer of Stella Page Design and has made countless collections of artful handbags that are sold in stores all over the world. Every day, rain or shine, in sickness and in health, Stella can be found in her studio drawing, designing, and living the life she was meant to live- the life of an artist. Her illness is in remission, and her business and spirit are thriving.

Being who you are meant to be is not an easy endeavor. Living your dream is not for the faint of heart. Whether you are a born poet, painter, or dancer, we all have an artist in us that is just pounding on our hearts to get out, to be set free, and to be expressed. I tell this story because I love my friend and I love her creative spirit, but mostly I tell it to encourage you, dear reader, to live your own dream. You may be twenty, you may be forty, or you may be sixty-five—it doesn’t matter. Start now, start new. Your dreams are waiting to be realized, and life is waiting to be just as beautiful as you envisioned it to be as a child.